When Republican congressman Ed Schrock of Virginia announced on Monday that he would not seek reelection, the GOP didn’t merely lose a House member with a solidly conservative voting record–it nearly wound up with a tax-and-spend replacement.
Since his election in 2000, Schrock has earned a 95-percent lifetime rating from the American Conservative Union. None of his peers in Virginia has scored better. And yet his political career apparently has come to an end, with an Internet blogger’s accusation that Schrock is secretly gay and Schrock’s subsequent decision to quit his race rather than respond to the charge.
The announcement surprised Republicans, who were suddenly charged with the task of finding a new candidate before a deadline this Friday. On Tuesday, the Washington Post named two “leading candidates”: state senator Kenneth Stolle and delegate Thelma Drake.
On paper, Stolle might look like a better choice to promote from Richmond to Washington: As a state senator, he represents many more constituents than Drake does.
But there’s a big difference between Stolle and Drake: He has supported bipartisan efforts to raise taxes and she has opposed them.
Earlier this year, when Democratic governor Mark Warner recommended raising Virginia’s taxes by more than $1 billion, Stolle offered a counterproposal. His mistake, however, wasn’t to suggest a watered-down version of what Warner sought. Instead, he proposed a tax hike four times as large.
By making Warner’s plan look moderate in comparison, Stolle helped create the conditions for Warner to get exactly what he wanted: the largest tax increase in Virginia history.
Throughout the controversy, Drake was a consistent opponent of higher taxes.
So the 2nd Congressional District Republican Committee faced a stark and important choice that could have ramifications for years, considering the Hampton Roads seat is safe for Republicans. Its next occupant could serve for a generation.
Enter the Club for Growth, which plans to spend $16 million this year supporting anti-tax candidates.
“We told the Republicans that if they put a pro-tax person on the ticket, we’ll support the Democrat,” said Club president Steve Moore, who is attending the GOP convention in New York this week.
Back in Virginia, Peter Ferrara of the Virginia Club for Growth sent an email to the committee members. He didn’t mince words:
People do not go out and vote for Republicans, volunteer for their campaigns, and send their hard earned money so once elected they can then act like Ken Stolle did in this last session. Promoting Ken Stolle now will damage the party across the entire state as the base of the party starts to fade away. Surely we can all recognize that because of what Stolle did in this last session nominating him now for Congress would be highly controversial at the grassroots and divide the party, throwing the seat in jeopardy.
On Tuesday night, the committee took the Club’s advice. In a secret ballot, it picked Drake as its nominee for the second congressional district in Virginia. It’s impossible to know what role the Club played, but on Wednesday Ferrara was running a victory lap.
“This shows that if you screw us at the state level and raise taxes, when you run for Congress we’ll get you,” said Ferrara. “If you look to move up, we’ll get you.
“If Stolle had stood up against the tax increase, he would be on his way to being a member of Congress today,” he said. “But now Thelma Drake is on her way.”
On November 2, she will face Democratic candidate David Ashe.